And on and on it goes …

Last week, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a bill permitting abstinence-only sex education in schools. The law also de-emphasizes instruction on birth control. Birth control of all things. How is it that our country – and now our once progressive state – has suddenly found itself mired in a raging battle over birth control? What year is this? No, never mind that. What planet is this? I’d say put me in cryogenic freeze for 40 years until this madness blows over, but I’m afraid I’ll wake up to a colorful USA Today infographic on the top five signs that your scullery maid is a witch.

Don’t get me wrong. I happen to think that the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution is one of the most important social advances of the past 300 years. And I think we’ve proven over the last 225 years that allowing people to live in accordance with their consciences when it comes to religious matters is the only way to go. But I also believe in science, and I think we simply need to stop humoring decision-makers who say provably false things just because they happen to think their religion supports them.

Here’s a great example: Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe recently said one of the most astoundingly ignorant things you’ll ever hear on the subject of climate change:

“Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.’ My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

Now, Bible interpretation is a tricky thing, and if you’re not careful, you’re bound to overreach and come to all sorts of unfounded conclusions.

For instance, when I read in 1 Kings 11:3 that Solomon, the wisest of all biblical kings, had 700 wives and 300 concubines, I interpret that literally to mean that I can have 700 wives and 300 concubines, and not one concubine more. Wicked, vengeful, ungodly women who would dare presume to know God’s plan for me have told me I’m mistaken. We can agree to disagree, but I’m the one with thousands of years of biblical tradition on my side.

Anyway, whether or not you believe in man-made climate change, Inhofe is simply wrong. Without question, humans have had the capability of changing the climate for decades. A full-scale nuclear war would pretty much take care of seed time and harvest, and would change the climate dramatically.

But increasingly, we’re no longer listening to scientists or looking at evidence when it comes to crafting public policy. We’re listening to old men in frocks who don’t know how to use Google.

Why else would we pass a law encouraging abstinence-only education when abstinence-only education doesn’t work?

Recently, I noted that The Netherlands has one-sixth the teenage pregnancy rate, one-third the abortion rate, and one-nineteenth the chlamydia rate of the U.S. I also noted that they achieved these results by being more open about teen sexuality, making contraceptives readily available, and offering comprehensive sex education. What I didn’t mention was that in recent years, U.S. teen birth rates have been far lower than they’ve ever been. In 1957, the teen birth rate peaked at 96 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19, and in 2009, it was just 39. So clearly, birth control has made a difference.

Meanwhile, the birth rate in the Sarah Palin household, which teaches abstinence-only sex education, is about 500 per 1,000 girls. The Netherlands wins that one, too. (Low blow, I know, but I still can’t get over the fact that Bristol Palin was paid $262,000 as an anti-teen pregnancy advocate following the Palin family’s unpleasantness. Take it from me, you could prevent far more pregnancy by buying one school district $262,000 in used Dungeons & Dragons paraphernalia. I was a dedicated D&D player for years, and it pretty much turned every room I ever stepped in into a sexual Chernobyl.)

Seriously, though, I’m scared. Truly, truly scared. I’m baffled that our country is actually considering Rick Santorum as a viable presidential candidate. It boggles my fragile mind.

I also worry about the future of our economy if we continue to go down this path. Will people really want to move to Wisconsin – or even stay here – if we can’t even get the birth control question right? What’s next? Seriously. I really want to know. And if Santorum somehow were elected president, would people with the means to go elsewhere really want to stick around for reason’s death rattle?

These are not outlandish questions. I’ve written about this before in reference to Scott Walker’s homophobic agenda, and it bears repeating.

Places that are diverse and that value the contributions of creative people are also economically vibrant places. How long, therefore, can we survive the kind of brazen anti-intellectualism that is now ascendant?

To quote Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, “Talented people seek an environment open to differences. Many highly creative people, regardless of ethnic background or sexual orientation, grew up feeling like outsiders, different in some way from most of their schoolmates. When they are sizing up a new company and community, acceptance of diversity … is a sign that reads ‘non-standard people welcome here.'”

If Florida is right, then the very same people who are most revolted by the thought of a Rick Santorum presidency, or by some state legislators’ dream of turning Wisconsin into a much colder version of Mississippi, are also vital to the future of our economy.

I say let’s keep them here. Pretty please. Let’s restore some sanity to the political process.

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